What term would you use to describe the application of new, personalized technologies to healthcare?

Neil Versel wants to know How would you describe the application of new personalized technologies to healthcare

Over at Meaningful HIT News Editor Neil Versel has started a poll asking which term readers prefer to use to describe the application of new, personalized technologies to healthcare. Click here and make the jump and vote before reading on.

My thoughts:

​I don’t think it really matters that much what anyone in the healthcare IT industry prefers as this is something that will boil down to what’s relevant and meets the increasingly demanding expectations of smartphone wielding clinicians who don’t want to understand and will no longer tolerate the IT they use to save peoples lives languishing behind that used by the pizza delivery boy.

I think it’s more important to think about which term explains why we live in an exciting time. Which term fits with and helps explain why we’re seeing so many rapid changes and unprecedented levels of Patient engagement.

​Here’s my attempt to explain what I think the differences are between the terms that Neil’s put out there:​

Digital Health

​This is an generic term ​that confuses people because most Medics think digital means something completely different and everything used in healthcare today is already made/delivered using Digital processes (your toaster has a chip in it, the tissue rolls used to cover your consult room couch are ordered via a website, etc).

For Patients Digital Health would typically refer to something like a weigh scale with a digital display or a cheap glucometer: it’s unconnected but it’s digital, it’s cheap but it’s expensive to use (because you have to buy expensive strips to use in it and the accurate data it might produce is only rarely used by carers), etc.

Digital Health Glucometer

I don’t think that sounds like how we’d want to describe the application of new personalized technologies to healthcare – a good example of which would be the seamlessly mobile connected relative of the digital glucometer.

Connected Health

​Means a wide range of things most of which are positive. Emailing my doctor my glucose readings would be connected health. ​Visiting a website to see my healthcare record would be connected health. Having my Doctors’ mobile number would be connected health.

The problem I see with this term is that we’re far from solving the access problem and until we’re further along with that a conventional Doctor providing you with ‘Connected Health’ while being closed at weekends and in the evenings is going to prove to be another case of over-promising and under delivering.

When applying these new, personalized technologies to healthcare we really need to move on from that.

Wireless Health

‘​Wireless’ is a term that’s synonymous with ‘Mobile’ in the USA. To the rest of the world and older people it means Radio.​ Radio was the 4th mass media and to most patients radio health just sounds weird and really isn’t going to apply to a lot of the other ways we are increasingly using to interact with computers eg. using our voice, via a screen, by moving our heads and eyes, etc (for more on this check out my Beyond the Beep talk from Nuance’s Global Healthcare Leaders Conference last year in Portugal).

Outside the USA there’s never been a “Wireless Health” event and the dropping of the term Wireless by the San Diego based West Wireless Health Institute that’s now just called West Health is a good sign of this as this is an initiative backed by the $15B fortunes’ of Gary and Mary West. Similarly the rapid growth of the mHealth Summit Vs the longer running Wireless Life Science Alliance meetings (that actively tried to push back against the adoption of the mHealth term) shows that even the big US mobile brands in the newest trillion $ mobile industry (that every big company is now obsessing about) are following the trend seen in the rest of the world and are moving away from associating themselves with the term Wireless.

Mobile Health (or mHealth)

I know a lot of people struggle with the definition of mHealth but we’re talking about Mobile the newest mass media. The most distributed technology on the planet. The newest trillion dollar industry. The tech that defined the last decade. The cannibal of cannibals. Yes I’m biased but Mobile is quite simply where it’s at for every company that’s trying to engage with customers.

As it seamlessly embeds itself into medical devices (click here to get a feel of the transformation this enables) we’re going to see Patients specifically asking for the “mobile one” when they have choice because whether it’s your Blood Pressure readings, care monitor or your smoke alarm it’s only with ‘mobile’ that it will seamlessly work anywhere.

It’s also only with ‘mobile’ that medical device companies will have to become media companies and listen to Patients about their experiences (app store ratings aren’t going to disappear anytime soon).


Telehealth for me is something that’s bought by a committee at an organisation like the NHS that was decided upon only after a 24 month tendering process. It’s unsurprising that it normally arrives several years past it’s sell by, is unfit for it’s intended use and is lucky to make it out of the stock room before it’s sent for recycling:

TeleHealth Monitor

This normally happens because the sales guy who sold it had to tolerate the buyers 24 month sales cycle and actually started ​pitching it first about 5 years ago when they had to sponsor a big TeleHealth conference to wine, dine and entertain the bureaucrat that makes decisions on ‘innovative’ things like TeleHealth for the government organisation that’s tasked with implementation.

Once the TeleHealth sale is complete it’s normal for the TeleHealth salesman to take his buyer for a few more free beers during which he explains that he would’ve been happier selling him $400 iPads but the margins in those are so small that there wouldn’t of been any commission to pay for the 40 days of effort he put into making the sale happen. Towards the end of a long evening he then offers the buyer the opportunity to work for the TeleHealth company in an effort to show appreciation for buying that first shipment of junk and in the hope that he has the ability to place some more orders before handing in his notice. The inebriated TeleHealth salesman gets the bus home reading through a list of other bureaucrats that his customer has given him. The next morning he sends them all an invite to a game of golf…

What are your thoughts?

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